Tag Archives: small business owners

Putting Your Health First as an Entrepreneur

Before I had my son, I would often spend 12 to 14 hours a day at my computer working on my Stethoscopebusiness or completing work for a client. After my son was born, I had to become more efficient in managing my time and I cut those hours down a bit. And then I started to get tonsillitis every time he got cough or cold. My productivity obviously took a hit whenever that happened and I didn’t enjoy being on antibiotics all of the time.

So, earlier this month, I made a tough choice to prioritize my health over making more money. I decided (with much trepidation) to get a tonsillectomy. Apparently, a tonsillectomy for a kid isn’t that big of a deal. But for adults, it requires weeks and weeks of recovery time and it can be a much riskier procedure. Still, I knew that I needed to take care of myself so that I wouldn’t be sick all of the time – to benefit both my family (my poor husband had to take care of my son alone every time I got sick) and my clients (who were nice enough to give me deadline extensions when I had to take a day off here and there). This meant that my revenue would take a hit in March. But I know that it was the right thing to do.

It has now been 14 days since I had the operation and I am so glad that I never have to go through that ordeal ever again! What I am even happier about is how supportive my clients were through the entire process. It makes me feel very fortunate to work with great people and I am thankful for the decisions I have made over the years to prioritize clients who I enjoy working alongside and who treat me with respect.

The lesson that I have taken away from this experience is that entrepreneurs and small business owners should never ignore health issues in favour of finishing one last client project, or making even more sales for their business. I urge you to consider what is most important in life. Over the long term, you are doing your friends, loved ones and your customers a favour by taking care of yourself. The money will always be there. But you need to maintain your health and well being in order to be the best entrepreneur that you can be.

Image source: By Stethoscopes (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

My Quest to Become Hyper-Organized

Part of my decision to run my own business was to have flexibility and control over when, where and how I do my work. But the busier that I get, the more I find that I need to become what I call “hyper-organized.” That means, I want to be so insanely organized that I get every task done without sacrificing my work-life balance.

So, over the past few months, I’ve been speaking with friends, colleagues and mentors to find out how they manage their time efficiently.

I find it fascinating that everyone has their own personal system for managing their time. Some people only check e-mail at specific times of the day – in order to avoid spending all day in their inbox. Other people only make phone calls at the time of day when they are the least productive.

Since I found it really useful to hear other people’s advice on what they do to stay on top of their game, I thought I’d share my own tricks for keeping myself organized.

1. Block off specific times in your calendar for specific projects. If you stick to these times and don’t do anything else, you’re more likely to finish each task. When I used to work for larger companies, blocking off my calendar also forced people to come to me to find out when I was free to meet – rather than having an open calendar where anyone can book a meeting with me at anytime. It definitely made me feel more in control of my meeting times vs. work time.

2. Set regular times to do weekly tasks. For example, I schedule Wednesday afternoon/early evening to write my weekly personal blog. If I get to it sooner than that time great! If not, then I know that Wednesdays are blog days. So, I dedicate that time to getting that task done. This definitely helps me to stay consistent and dedicated to my blog.

3. Plan out and track your hours at the beginning, middle and end of each week. I start a weekly project list every Monday morning and assign estimated hours to complete each project. I then check-in again mid-week to see how I’m tracking against each goal. Then, on Fridays, I try to anticipate what needs adjusting for the following week. Using a tool like Freshbooks.com is a huge help in this area. Their “time tracking” feature for projects is my saving grace!

4. Schedule breaks. When you’re super busy, it’s extremely important that you set aside time to take a breather. I’m notorious for working straight through a day without taking a break. However, since I started putting reminders in my calendar to take a break, I’ve found that I am way more productive. Make sure that those breaks mean time away from the computer – like going for a walk outside, or going to the gym. This is much better for me than watching a bunch of funny YouTube videos. But everyone is different. Just make sure that you do something that will get you re-energized and re-focused.

5. Weed out the “must-haves” versus the “nice-to-haves.” Of course, there are a million things that I’d like to accomplish each week. However, it’s very important to weed out what’s going to help you to get where you need to be today versus a month, six months or a year from now. Being realistic about what you can accomplish, and breaking goals into daily or weekly chunks, will make life a lot easier and happier for you 😉

These are just some of the ways that I’ve been able to stay on top of my work when I’m super busy. I’d love to find out what works for you?

Image source: iStockPhoto.com

Tips for freelancers on staying connected

I’ve had a few conversations with freelancers and small business owners in the past week about staying connected. Freelancing or running a sole proprietorshipphoto illustrate networking - tin cans with a string  can get lonely sometimes. You don’t always have people to collaborate with or ask advice. But there are ways to manage this problem.

Below are some of the tactics that work best for me.

1. Reach out to others with social media. This one should be obvious. However, if it’s not then here are some tools that you should be using to find the right people to get the feedback and collaboration that you crave:

  • Twitter: It has been said that Facebook is for staying connected with the people you know, and Twitter is for finding the people you should know. Get that Twitter profile started and begin searching with tools like search.twitter.com for the people who are Tweeting about topics that are related to your business and to your interests. Start conversations with these people online, but make sure to take these conversations offline as well. Meet for coffee or set-up a quick phone call to get to know them better. After all, that’s why it’s called social media.
  • Quora: If a customer calls with a question that you can’t answer, try posing it to the experts on Quora. I’ve found that within a day or two after posting a question, I usually get a very helpful answer. This is a great replacement for those mass e-mails, or wiki posts, that you used to send out to your team at a larger company for an answer.

2. Coffee and lunch meetings are a must. I make an effort to book at least two or three coffee or lunch meetings a week. It’s sometimes tough if you’re on a tight deadline for a project, but staying in touch with other colleagues face-to-face helps to keep your sanity.

3. Pick-up this old-fashioned thing called a telephone. Ok, so smartphones aren’t old-fashioned. But we live in a world where people sometimes get freaked out when you call them rather than texting, e-mailing or instant messaging them. However, it’s amazing how much more you can get accomplished in a quick phone call, rather than a long e-mail or text string of exchanges. Plus, the human voice on the other end is another great way to feel connected to the real world if you’re working alone.

4. Skype-it-up. If you’re on a shoestring budget as a small business owner, and have to call someone long-distance, make sure that you set-up a Skype account. That way, you can choose to also speak to the person face-to-face via webcam and feel even more connected. But this does require that you make yourself presentable – in case you’re one of those people who works in their pajamas every now and then.

5. Co-working spaces and coffee shops. Need a change of scenery, or want to be around people for a day? Why not go to a Starbucks or Second Cup and take advantage of the free wifi? If your local coffee shop is wearing on you, why not look for co-working spaces that you can rent by the day or by the hour? There are always lots of other small business owners there and you never know who you’ll meet. Check out my blog from last week about some of the spaces that are popping up in Toronto.

Have another tactic for staying connected? Please share what has worked for you in the comments section below.

Image source: iStockPhoto.com